The Ashridge Nurseries Blog

Formal gardens and your help and suggestions for their kitchen garden

I visited a friend’s house and gardens a few weekends ago for his birthday lunch and was taken on a tour of the gardens.

There is a formal garden behind the front of the house, with 120 year old yew and box hedging set in symmetrical patterns. Andrew explained that it requires continuous work and that the gardens have undergone some changes over the years, but there were some old plans that he had tried to adhere to as far as possible.

Yew hedging

The alliums in this section of the formal yew hedging area of the garden are particularly stunning at this time of year and combined with grasses give an airy feel against the tall dark yew hedges.


The garden is home to some beautiful old trees, including an oak tree – the main trunk of which is at a jaunty 40 degree angle and looks somewhat out of kilter with the formal yew. There are some beautiful fruit trees, including these two medlar trees, which form a zig-zag branch shape that this rather unusual. Andrew related that an uncle had told him that the fruit needs to fall to the ground, left for a good few weeks, letting them become soft and juicy in a cool dry place – this ripening process is known as ‘bletting’. They can then be made into jam (more technically known as cheese) and jelly.

Medlar trees

The kitchen garden is about an acre in total, and requires far too much maintenance and his children have mostly grown up and therefore they simply don’t need as many vegetables. It’s a quandary that many gardeners face, having too large a vegetable patch. Andrew is not sure what to do; there are some lovely wizened old apple trees in a little avenue and the broad beans are growing beautifully as are some rambling roses, but what to do with the rest of the space? We had various suggestions, but were not sure how to progress, a kitchen garden should be a working, productive space, but how to decrease on the maintenance? Any suggestions you may have would be welcome and passed on to Andrew for consideration.

Apple avenue

This round entrance at the top of the kitchen garden is rather unusual and adds an architectural finesse to the wall and looks out into the wooded wilderness area beyond.

We passed by a wonderful wisteria softening the angle of the orangery with a fig tree growing so well that figs will be on the menu late this summer or early autumn, depending on the amount of sun. It looks fabulous.


Fig tree

Returning to the house, there are a number of stunning Portuguese laurel trees, which are in flower right now and their symmetry give the lawns to the side of the house another formal dimension to the gardens.

Thank you, Andrew, for taking me round the gardens, for a simply delicious lunch and such great company. Happy Birthday.


Happy Gardening.

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